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Archive for March, 2009

Power sharing in Africa

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Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 by Bev Clark

The political arrangement in Zimbabwe between Zanu PF and the MDC has challenged those of us who are more idealistic than pragmatic. Some people say the arrangement is a good thing believing that it will put bread back on the table. Others, like a man who walked into my office the other day, said that democracy has been eaten up and crapped out.

The President of Botswana, Ian Khama recently described developments in Zimbabwe and Kenya as “bad precedents for the democracy in the continent.”

Writing for ISN Security Watch, Edoardo Totolo discusses power sharing in Africa. Here’s an excerpt

Power sharing, therefore, is a dilemma for post-conflict development theorists: It represents a compromise that can halt conflict and save lives in the short-term at the expense of good-governance and long-term political stability.

The role of Trust in Zimbabwean politics

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Tuesday, March 17th, 2009 by Dewa Mavhinga

Recently l had a quiet chuckle as l reflected on the role of trust in Zimbabwean politics. The reflection led me to recall a story my father often told me. The story goes something like this: There was a man in my father’s village who was notorious for poisoning the beer of colleagues as they drank in open mugs. The entire village feared him and no-one dared drink with him. My father shared this fear and mistrust but wanted to show this man but he told wanted to show this guy he trusted him, so, quite exceptionally they went for a beer drink together. During the course of drinking it became inevitable that my father had to respond to the call of nature and of course had to leave the notorious villager in sole custody of his beer mug. As he walked back to  rejoin the notorious villager, my father was faced with a difficult situation: whether to trust that the villager had not tempered with his beer and just finish the beer in the mug or to reveal his deep mistrust by not finishing up his beer. Fortunately my father was lucky to have a brain wave; he feigned a drunken stupor, stumbled around and tipped the mug over, immediately removing the need to take the ultimate test of trust. Political parties in Zimbabwe may not be so lucky to escape taking the test of trust.

The question of trust was recently thrust to the fore of people’s minds by the tragic death of the Prime Minister’s wife Amai Susan Tsvangirai (may her soul rest in peace) in a tragic road traffic accident. While the causes of the accident will not be examined in detail here, leaving that to an independent investigator, suffice it here to state that the nation was immediately gripped with deep suspicion – and many, including yours truly, saw, not the hand of God, but the hand of ZANU-PF behind the unfortunate event. This, l believe, demonstrates fully the level of distrust that prevails in Zimbabwe.

Now that the Global Political Agreement has ushered in an inclusive government that necessarily requires ZANU-PF and MDC to work together for the good of Zimbabwe, one wonders whether there is sufficient mutual trust to enable the parties to work effectively together. Trust generally refers to a firm belief in someone or something or being confident about someone or something. Trust develops over time, based on solid past experiences that inform present levels of trust. Trust is not nurtured by beautiful speeches of flowery language; it feeds on consistent action to deliver on promises made.

If history is anything to go by, then it will be very difficult to trust ZANU-PF. Its human rights and social services delivery record when it was in government for the past 29 years is appalling and its propensity to break promises made to the people astounding to say the least. Distrust of ZANU-PF is therefore not paranoia, rather, blind trust of ZANU-PF maybe be an indication of serious amnesia. To what extent can ZANU-PF as a political party and partner in government be trusted by the MDC and by the people of Zimbabwe to deliver food, health, democracy and fundamental freedoms to the people of Zimbabwe? Or, is it a sign of mutual trust that MDC and ZANU-PF have joined hands in this inclusive government or a sign of desperation on the part of both parties? I hazard a guess that the inclusive government is not a reflection of trust but desperation. ZANU-PF and MDC are trying to work together under a dark cloud of mistrust while pretending that there is not a speck of mistrust in the bright blue sky of the partnership.

For the GPA or anything to work, or any relationship for that matter, there is need for a certain level of mutual trust to exist. For parties that have worked together for a long time in a spirit of opposition and mistrust, to build and raise trust to required minimal levels requires solid political will and a lot of hard work. It requires a change of attitude and a radical paradigm shift. ZANU-PF must demonstrate, by concrete positive actions, that it has turned over a new leaf and is now worthy of the nation’s trust.

At the moment, ZANU-PF’s trust account is in overdraft, there is need to work gradually and progressively to restore people’s confidence as well as the trust of the international community that Zimbabwe is open for clean business. The international community must see for them concrete evidence that, for instance, financial accountability has been restored at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and that if aid is given it will reach intended beneficiaries and not vanish into thin air.

Unfortunately recent events in Zimbabwe do not contribute to the genesis and growth of trust; rather, they fan the fires of mistrust and suspicion and confirm to the unconverted that perhaps ZANU-PF, much like the proverbial leopard, will never changes its spots.  Instead of reassuring the nation that abductions and acting outside the framework of the rule of law are a thing of the past, even as the parties and joining hands, a senior member of the MDC and deputy Minister of Agriculture designate is abducted and slapped with trumped-up and politically motivated charges. Not only that, in open violation of constitutional and GPA provisions, all parties to the GPA agree to swear-in more cabinet ministers than provided for. How can both the MDC and ZANU-PF persuade the nation to trust them that they are indeed putting the best interests of the nation ahead of their own?  Again, quite oblivious of the need to build trust, President Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF unilaterally sought to make appointments of Permanent Secretaries to all ministries.

Another interesting development that raises the question of trust once more is the fact that MDC members of cabinet have been allocated State security agents for their personal security. One really wonders whether these ministers feel more secure or more insecure as a result. My father used to tell me of a statement coined by opposition parties in the 1980s to refer to ZANU-PF. It says, ‘ZANU-PF Isinjonjo – tamba wakachenjera,’ which in English is ‘when in partnership with ZANU-PF, always be on the watch out – better sleep with one eye open.’

Finally, word of advice to ZANU-PF is that trust is earned and once earned must be guarded jealously. To earn the trust of the nation and indeed of MDC, there is need to demonstrate, through action, that there is a difference between the ZANU-PF in the inclusive government and the other one that belongs in that past. The MDC must also earn the trust of the nation that they have their bearings and priorities right and that they represent a change that brings bread to the table for all. Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister also needs to earn the trust of the international community from whom Zimbabwe is seeking aid, and one way of earning this trust is to clean-up the Reserve Bank and put in place water-tight systems of financial accountability while ensuring that both small and big fish found guilty of looting national resources are locked away. I end by quoting and respectfully agreeing with Arthur Mutambara who at his swearing in ceremony as the new Deputy Prime Minister said it was high time for political parties in Zimbabwe to “deliver, deliver and deliver.”

Mugabe’s lavish lifestyle shouldn’t be rewarded

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Monday, March 16th, 2009 by Bev Clark

As Zanu PF and the MDC ask for foreign aid to set the recovery of Zimbabwe in motion, land invasions are still in full swing. From Chiredzi we’ve just received this report:

On Sunday the Deputy Commissioner of Police Veterai, who was partially occupying Digby Nesbitts homestead in the presence of the Nesbitts since Jan. 2008, has now moved in totally taking over all the house hold goods and furnishings and has also forced away all the workforce from their housing on the farm. This has left the crocodile farm with no one to feed and medicate the crocodiles. Veterai took advantage of the Nesbitts whilst they were South Africa. So one of the highest ranking policemen in Zimbabwe is nothing but a thief with no compassion or sense decency.

Zimbabwe is the world’s third largest food aid consumer and still Mugabe sanctions land invasions, and still Mugabe and Tsvangirai go cap in hand to the World Bank, the IMF, South Africa, the UK (etc, etc) for a bail out.

Sick, isn’t it.

It’s also sick that Mugabe lives a lavish lifestyle whilst millions of Zimbabweans rely on food aid to keep them going.

In Robert Calderisi’s book The Trouble with Africa: why foreign aid isn’t working takes leaders like Mugabe to task and has suggestions of how to get Africa working again. Here are two ideas that should be engaged immediately:

Introduce mechanisms for tracing and recovering public funds
The world’s greatest gift to Africa’s democrats would be to stop the amassing of illegal fortunes by its politicians and senior officials in foreign banks. Closing safe havens for illicit money would be a major building block of political reform in Africa.

Require all heads of state, ministers, and senior officials to open their bank accounts to public scrutiny
Openness about personal finances would build confidence within the African public and identify those with something to hide. In a continent as poor as Africa, there should not be many legitimate millionaires in government. As African corruption is the worst in the world, officials should long ago have lost the right to have unexamined bank accounts. If countries refuse to accept such constraints, they should not be asking for aid.

Betwixt and between The State

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Monday, March 16th, 2009 by Susan Pietrzyk

Anybody and everybody knows that Zimbabwe’s GNU has a great many problems to deal with.  They are problems which cut across all sectors of society (education, health, agriculture, arts & culture, economics, etc.).  Some are optimistic about the future.  Some are skeptical.  Many are in the middle, or flat out uncertain about what the future holds.  One thing is for sure.  Zimbabweans are tired.  Their fight for democracy has been long and exhausting.  The pains have been both physical and emotional.  Which makes it all the more painful to suggest that the fight is far from over.  Even if the GNU could instantly fix everything and Zimbabwe became the world-renowned utopia north of the Limpopo, my stance remains the same.  I would still say that fighting for and sustainably implementing democratic practices of governance are permanent endeavors.  For any and every nation.  Citizens have an important role to play in the check and balances of democracy.  That role involves a balanced approach of working with and supporting the individuals and institutions charged with implementing democratic practices along with identifying and taking action when there are transgressions from democracy.

I’ve been thinking about all that in the context of an excellent article I read by Everjoice Win entitled:  When sharing female identity is not enough: coalition building in the midst of political polarization in Zimbabwe.  Win does not state what I will proceed to suggest in these exact terms, but subtly this line of thinking is within Win’s adept analysis.   The women’s movement in Zimbabwe has never really rebounded from Operation Clean Up of 1983. During this operation, The State violated the rights of ordinary citizens by arresting thousands of women for the “crime” of being on the street alone.  This came out of ill-conceived belief on the part of The State that no woman would be on the street alone unless a prostitute.   The ensuing advocacy led to the formation of the Women’s Action Group (WAG).   These moments are historicised as the birth of the post-independence women’s movement in Zimbabwe; in many respects, an accurate historisation.

However, these moments also signal a second birth.  That of challenging The State.  I am purposively using capital T and capital S to make clear that by “The State” I don’t just mean government.  Rather, I mean the political ideology of authoritarian rule and in turn, the masculine ideology of using The State as an avenue to control, not only women themselves, but also to control definitions of the concept of woman.  WAG emerged as an organisation which put front and center an agenda of challenging The State.   A great many women’s organizations came onto the scene once WAG was operational.   Some followed suit with WAG and challenged The State.  Others took more depoliticized paths.  Some were co-opted by The State.  Through all of this, the issue of challenging The State or working with The State remained a sticking point within the overall women’s movement.   As Win notes, “political and ideological differences were concealed by the language of gender and development, with its depoliticized messages associated with national development.”

In 1999, this dynamic played out again, in relation to the founding of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), the Constitutional Commission (CC), and the Women’s Coalition (WC).   With interest in ensuring women’s rights were part of the constitutional review process, the WC had to choose a path:  The NCA (Civil Society) or The CC (The State).   The formation of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) this same year complicated the terrain even more.  The ‘which path to choose’ dilemma existed, not only for the WC, but also for all development or issue-related movements and organisations.  Of course, it’s not neatly an either or choice; there are ways to make strategic and selective linkages.  And many issue-specific organizations did and continue to do this well.  But still.  Somehow, I think this dilemma around The State has been particularly troublesome for the broader coalition of women’s organisations.   In summarizing the terrain around this time Win notes, “The crisis has left the women’s movement in disarray…  A major blockage for the WC is its lack of a clear position on its relationship with the State.”  Win’s article was published in 2004, so perhaps the WC has cleared the blockage.   However, I have a sneaking suspicion the WC, to this day, remains problematically betwixt and between this issue of relating to The State.

Thus, to connect the dots begs the question:   As the GNU (hopefully not a new The State) comes to fruition and hopefully succeeds as a democracy, is a women’s movement ready to take on the need for discussions about The State, which have been, to some degree, relegated to the sidelines for 26 years?  Perhaps what is needed is, not a GNU, but rather, some WUGU (Women United Government United).

Book Cafe discussion with Tsitsi Dangarembga and Shimmer Chinodya

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Friday, March 13th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood

clark_tsitsi_dangarembga_090312Pamberi Trust hosted a literary discussion last night, on theme “Is writing craft or emotion?” The panelsits were Zimbabwean authors Tsitsi Dangarembga and Shimmer Chinodya, and the discussion was chaired by Stanley Mupfudza. Both speakers drew on their own works, and a number of other authors from elswhere in Africa, the US and Latin America, to conclude that both craft and emotion matter in creating great literature. But both speakers also agreed that as a motivation, emotion – the desire to convey a certain feeling to the reader – was a greater impetus to write than any interest in mastering the craft of writing for its own sake. In discussion, participants by and large agreed that both craft and emotion matter – but that emotion was of primary importance.  Listen to Dangarembga urging Zimbabweans to speak out across their full range of emotions, and deepen our understanding of one another.

Picking up the slack

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Friday, March 13th, 2009 by Amanda Atwood


In the back of the shopping centre where I work, piles of rubbish like this are unfortunately common. Along the streets and verges, tins and take away boxes pile up. The rubbish bins along the sidewalks are full to overflowing, and more and more people just drop their litter on the pavement. The build up of rubbish isn’t surprising; the City of Harare hasn’t conducted regular rubbish collection in months. More and more people I speak with are refusing to pay the refuse collection portion of their City bills – why pay for something you don’t receive?

So when we saw a flyer for The Garbage Guys, offering a prompt refuse removal service, we decided to get in touch with them and see if they could pick up where the City of Harare has left off. They came by yesterday to have a look, and seemed to think a shopping centre clean up might be something they could do, but they needed some time to plan their approach.

I have my reservations, not about them but about the principle of it. Increasingly, those individuals and communities who can afford to are contracting businesses to deliver where public service is failing – fundraising to buy their own cables and ferry ZESA to fix electrical faults; drilling boreholes or buying bowsers of water to fill their tanks where municipal water hasn’t flowed for months. It’s an understandable response to both a complete failure of local and national government services, and the non-responsiveness of these same authorities to demands that they improve their standards. And it has parallels in other parts of Harare, and elsewhere.  Where public services fail, private initiatives step in to cover the gaps.

And of course there are different models, some more community-based, and others more like standard businesses. But I am worried about how this effective privatisation impacts things down the line. Those communities who can afford it sort themselves out. Those who don’t are left to live with sewage flowing down the streets, and mountains of rubbish along the roads. I know our “inclusive government” can’t meet all the challenges it’s facing, at least not just yet. The Zimbabwe Independent’s lead story to day is Govt urgently needs US$1b as fuel, electricity debts mount. The USD 14 I refuse to pay for rubbish collection that doesn’t happen is a tiny drop in that bucket. But how does not even expecting, or asking, the government to cover the basics now – and therefore withdrawing payment from public spaces and diverting them to private companies – effect all of us later.